Mike Hollingsworth political science professor at the University of South Alabama talked about world new order and the effect of the spread of coronavirus on the international system. The US professor believes that there is a real threat in this pandemic but there have been far worse throughout history; and he says “as far as the sanctions on Iran are concerned, they are not justified when there is a pandemic.”
Below is Hollingsworth's interview with ILNA news agency:
Q: The “Maximum Pressure” policy is designed to disrupt the Iranian economy. US sanctions hurt Iranian people and the Iranian government cannot cope with coronavirus (COVID-19). Why the US government still defending its policy?
A: The novel coronavirus that has caused the recent pandemic is a serious threat to world health and has disproportionately affected some areas, including Iran. Iran has had more problems than most countries with this. It seems to have spread more rapidly to some areas rather than others. There is a real threat in this pandemic but there have been far worse throughout history. Basically, the world got lucky with the last pandemic in 2009. Swine flu can be much worse, but the transmissibility of the novel coronavirus is a problem. While not normally lethal, it has that potential and without certain public health initiatives, the virus can cause a lot of problems.
As far as the sanctions on Iran are concerned, they are not justified when there is a pandemic. This is not the best time for political posturing and withholding aid from countries that are struggling to deal with this problem. It is unethical and immoral and this is why countries have offered aid to Iran. Humanitarian aid is exempt from the current sanctions, but the sanctions have weakened the economic power that Iran has, thus it limits the ability of the country to respond to the virus.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options regarding the provision of any treatment for the virus and no one seems to want to spare any equipment such as ventilators for most countries. Italy is getting some help but that’s about it. Easing sanctions temporarily on Iran along with providing direct assistance in some way would be the best route to go given the current situation but the Iranian government has to be willing to accept it. This is a humanitarian issue and ideally would transcend any international disputes. Unfortunately, countries like the United States are busy dealing with internal policies regarding the virus and not much attention has been paid to addressing Iranian problems.
Q: China urges other countries to lift sanctions but other countries did not reconsider their policies?
A: For once, China is probably right in this situation. The main driving factor for not lifting sanctions is still the perceived threat of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons irrationally scare people. Europe is still very concerned about this as is the United States. This is combined with the fact that countries are struggling to deal with internal responses to the pandemic and are not placing a priority on adjusting foreign policy to assist countries such as Iran. They are preoccupied with their own problems.
Q: What is the role of foreign policy in providing healthcare facilities?
A: International organizations such as the World Health Organization set policies but they do not provide much direct aid. The United Nations is particularly ineffective in this realm. They cannot really do anything. It is the policies of individual countries, sometimes acting as a collective that affects world health. Unfortunately less developed countries or countries under heavy sanctions suffer disproportionately under this system. World health policy as a whole does not support a great deal of aid to those least able to protect themselves. There are various theories as to why this happens including Wallenstein’s framework about countries on the periphery as he described it. They suffer, and in turn, world health suffers. Iran has been pushed to this area or designation through sanctions.
Q: But Iranians are the main victims of the sanctions, not the government.
A: Iran was hit relatively quickly by the virus. Policies need to be adjusted to provide aid to Iran indirectly, meaning that it doesn’t need to come directly from Western powers. The government needs to be held accountable, however, since the aid needs to reach the people who need it.
Q: Lifting some of the sanctions could be seen as a goodwill gesture, but the US government has not decided to ease them; does the US have a consistent Iran policy?
A: The US is not going to lift the general sanctions over the pandemic. They have attempted to provide humanitarian aid which is not banned by any sanctions. The US doesn’t have an interest in lifting sanctions for anything but humanitarian aid, so economic relief is most likely not going to happen. Non-governmental organizations are probably the best bet for Iran to receive aid. China might also provide some aid.